No Deal: Kill the Flint bail-out

“I’m a victim of greed, corruption and mistakes and the blatant stupidity of our government.”

Melissa Mays, resident of Flint, before the Flint City Council, Jan. 26, 2015


Update, Feb. 24, 2016:

Senators from both parties reached a tentative deal on Wednesday to address the water crisis in Flint, Mich.—and allow a long-stalled energy bill to move forward.

A proposal by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) and James Inhofe (R., Okla.) would authorize $100 million in emergency aid to fix and replace the city’s lead-contaminated pipes, as well as $70 million in loans to improve the city’s water infrastructure. The deal also authorizes $50 million nationwide to bolster lead-prevention programs and improve children’s health.


Unobservant and calculating politicians, bungling bureaucrats, greedy unions. You name it, everybody and their brother is responsible for the fiasco that is Flint, Michigan’s lead contaminated water.

So what do some Democrats do right off the bat? They call for the federal government to bail out the city with millions in federal aid.

The Democrats initially proposed $600 million in federal aid, with $400 million of that for drinking water infrastructure improvements and $200 million for dealing with the health fallout from lead exposure.

On Feb. 4, Senate Democrats blocked action on a comprehensive energy bill after lawmakers failed to agree on including the $600 million aid package, or even a smaller alternative, as an amendment to the bill.

The New York Times editorial page, as usual, lambasted the Republicans for their callous disregard of human suffering, particularly of children, tied their resistance to racism and endorsed the proposed bail out. As expected, the paper also laid the blame for the problem at the feet of Michigan’s Republican governor.

“The state government, whose officials caused this crisis, has been loath to commit substantial funds to long-term needs, and Congress, under the control of Republicans, is finding excuses not to rescue this poverty-stricken, majority-black city of nearly 100,000 people,” said the NY Times editorial.

And, of course, Hillary Clinton jumped in, asserting that the response to the water crisis has been “immoral” and calling for immediate passage of bail-out legislation. “This is no time for politics as usual,” Clinton said cynically. Her obvious goal – to shore up the African-American vote in states with later primaries.

Further, in an attempt to portray Republicans opposed to the amendment as heartless scrooges, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said ,”100,000 people in Flint, Michigan, have been poisoned, and Republicans do nothing…Nine thousand little children . . . have been poisoned. Still, Senate Republicans refuse to help.”

But why should all federal taxpayers bail out Flint when it’s abundantly clear that Flint’s desperate financial situation is self-inflicted by a succession of Democratic administrations and the water debacle is a result of negligence and failure at all levels of government, local, state and federal.

It’s equally clear that the economic catastrophe that is Flint, with its high debt, high poverty rate, crime and depopulation, is the result of years of negligence by incompetent politicians.

In essence, the politicians are now asking the rest of us to cover their asses.

In 1965, in Flint’s heyday, the city had 200,000 residents.

In 20011, the city was placed under an emergency manager when a state-appointed review panel recommended a state takeover of the city.

The panel found a structural deficit, recurring cash flow shortages, an unsustainable pension program for public employees, and other financial deficiencies that left the city with a $14.6 million deficit a the end of fiscal year 2010.

By 2013, economic decay had caused the population to drop below 100,000 for the first time since the ’20s, with 40 percent of the residents living in poverty and the median income just $24,834 a year, compared with a state median income of $48,411.

The water problems began in April 2014 when Flint switched to Flint River water from Detroit’s water supply in a money-saving effort. The decision to switch was driven, in large part, by the fact Flint was swamped with debt, including an immense public employee pension burden negotiated by unions and Democratic city leaders. Pension and retiree health care obligations have grown so much that they now consume about 33 cents of every dollar spent from Flint’s general fund.

According to a team of students at Virginia Tech who conducted a comprehensive study of Flint’s water problems, contrary to popular assumptions, there’s essentially no lead in the drinking water being distributed in pipes leading up to property lines in Flint, but there is lead in many old service lines from water mains and in the plumbing systems of many older homes.

That wasn’t a big problem when Flint bought its water from Detroit because Detroit put a corrosion inhibitor in its water. But when Flint’s emergency manager decided to switch to the Flint River, without a corrosion inhibitor.

Marc Edwards, a professor at Virginia Tech who led the team of students, says the city could have addressed the problem early on for minimal cost. But now it’s gotten out of control.

“There is no question that if the city had followed the minimum requirements under federal law that none of this would have happened,” said Edwards.


For a sobering and disheartening, yet inspiring, look at the Flint water debacle, I urge you to watch this video reviewing the work of the Virginia Tech Flint Water Study team: